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New supersonic ‘mini-Concorde’ could prove disruptive

December 5, 2016 Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Plans for a plane that resembles a mini version of the Concorde and could fly between Los Angeles and Sydney in six hours may prove disruptive for the airline industry.

Boom Technology is working on a 45-seat aircraft that cruises at Mach 2.2 (1451 mph, or 2335 km/h). That’s faster than the long-defunct Concorde and about three times as fast as most passenger jets. Concorde carried 100 passengers so this one is smaller.

According to an article in Bloomberg news agency, fares would be no more expensive than a current business-class round trip, between USD 5000 (AUD 6677) and USD 10,000 (AUD 13,354).

Bloomberg speculates that airlines would be challenged to find how to market an upmarket supersonic service alongside the premium cabins on their existing jets. Would it steal their own market?

Boom!

Boom!

The plane, which is named the XB-1, doesn’t yet exist but Boom reportedly plans to fly a one-third-size demonstration version late next year, working with General Electric. As was reported earlier this year, Virgin supremo Richard Branson has signed an option to buy 10 of the supersonic passenger aircraft.

Branson has confirmed Virgin is backing the recently revealed supersonic Boom jets. Boom’s manufacturer claims the design will finally make supersonic travel affordable for the general public – though perhaps not for budget travellers.

Boom was founded in 2014 by former Amazon executive Blake Scholl. Its supersonic XB-1 could fly New York to London in three hours and 25 minutes. That’s about 100 mph faster than Concorde. It’s more fuel-efficient than Concorde (which was a notorious fuel guzzler) and the developers reckon the concept could work on more than 500 routes, linking global business centres like London, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong Sydney and Tokyo.

Hypothetically, Boom could fly from, say, Perth to Auckland in about three hours. The current record for that leg, non-stop, is held by Concorde, which operated a one-off, non-stop Perth/Auckland sector as part of a Halley’s Comet observation charter in 1986. I was on the flight and the Concorde had to move outside populated zones so the shockwave produced by breaking the sound barrier would not damage built-up areas.

Scholl said he was “thrilled to be working with Virgin. It’s hard to imagine a better partner for bringing supersonics to market”.

He said his plane would be able to succeed where Concorde ultimately failed because Boom would make flights much cheaper, allowing business executives to commute across the Atlantic if they wished.

The Guardian has reported that Boom’s plane configure seats in two rows either side of the aisle, “meaning that every passenger will get a direct view of the curvature of the earth as the plane cruises at 60,000ft, as well as direct access to the drinks trolley”.

That’s the same seating arrangement as on Concorde, which cruised at the same altitude. You could see the curvature of the earth from that. And drinks, finest Champagne, were never far away.

The Boom jet will be built using a carbon-fibre composite, of the sort used on the B787 and A350.

Written by Peter Needham

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